Vote to censure Representative Tlaib reflects the growing pattern in the House of Representatives
The House of Representatives voted late Nov. 7 to elect Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – the only Palestinian American in Congress – with an extraordinary rebuke of her rhetoric on the war between Israel and Hamas.
The 234-188 outcome came after enough Democrats joined Republicans in censuring Ms. Tlaib, a punishment one step below expulsion from the House of Representatives. The three-term congresswoman has long been the target of criticism for her views on the decades-long conflict in the Middle East.
The debate on the censure resolution on the afternoon of November 7 was emotional and intense. Republican Representative Rich McCormick of Georgia pushed for the measure in response to what he called Ms. Tlaib’s promotion of anti-Semitic rhetoric. He said she has “expressed incredible falsehoods about our greatest ally, Israel, and the October 7 attack.”
With other Democrats standing by her side, Ms. Tlaib defended her position, saying she “will not be silenced and I will not allow you to twist my words.” She added that her criticism of Israel has always been aimed at the government and leadership under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“It is important to separate people and government,” she said. “The idea that criticizing Israel’s government is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent. And it is being used to silence diverse voices speaking out for human rights across our country.”
That criticism reached new heights after the October 7 attack by the terrorist group Hamas that killed hundreds of Israelis and injured dozens. Ms Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank, came under heavy criticism after failing to immediately condemn Hamas following the attack.
All Democrats initially backed Ms. Tlaib and helped defeat the first censure resolution against her last week. But since then, many of her colleagues, including prominent Jewish members, have become more conflicted about her rhetoric on the war, especially over a slogan she has often used that is widely seen as a call for the eradication of Israel.
Ultimately, more than 20 of them joined Republicans on November 7 to denounce her after an attempt to suspend the measure failed earlier in the day.
The latest censure resulted in a dramatic vote in the House of Representatives, amid political tensions over the ongoing, deadly war between Israel and Hamas. Although majorities in both parties have historically been firmly on Israel’s side, divisions have emerged within the Democratic Party over the American response.
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., the only Democrat who voted with Republicans to advance the censure resolution, said he believed it was important to debate the “from the river to the sea” slogan.
“It is nothing other than a call for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews,” the Jewish Democrat said. “I will always defend the right to freedom of expression. Tlaib has the right to say whatever she wants.”
He added: “But it cannot go unanswered.”
Although the censure of a legislator has no practical effect, it amounts to serious recriminations from colleagues, as legislators who are censured are usually asked to stand in the support of the House of Representatives while the censure resolution is read against them. But the resolution against Ms. Tlaib did not call for a public admonishment.
The vote will make Ms. Tlaib the second Muslim-American woman in Congress to be formally admonished this year for her criticism of Israel. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in February over similar comments she made about Israel.
Some on the left have criticized President Joe Biden’s position and urged him to impose conditions on the United States’ support for Israel as the aggressive military campaign continues to drive up the Palestinian death toll.
Although the vote against Ms. Tlaib will take place against the extraordinary backdrop of the war, the push to censure her is part of a growing pattern in the House of Representatives.
Censorship has long been seen as a last resort, just one step below expulsion and to be used only for the most egregious misdeeds. But censure resolutions are quickly becoming routine in the House and are often applied in a strikingly partisan manner.
Many Democrats and some Republicans who opposed censoring Ms. Tlaib cited freedom of speech and warned of the precedent it would set.
“This resolution not only degrades our Constitution, but also degrades the meaning of discipline in this body for people who actually commit unlawful acts, such as bribery, fraud, assault, and so on,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., who defended Ms. Tlaib at hearing against the resolution.
A second resolution by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., to censure Ms. Tlaib was also scheduled for a procedural vote late Nov. 7. But that measure was put on hold after Mr. McCormick’s censure resolution was advanced to a final vote.
Ms. Tlaib is now the 26th person ever censured by the House, and the second this year. In June, Republicans voted to censure Democrat Adam Schiff of California over comments he made several years ago about investigations into then-President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
When the House was under Democratic control, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was convicted in 2021 for tweeting an animated video of him striking Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York with a sword. And Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York was convicted in 2010 of serious financial and campaign misconduct.
This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.